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This year, for the first time ever, digital will account for over half of adults in China’s daily media time, according to eMarketer’s latest estimates of media consumption in the country. In many markets, digital media usage represents a shift away from traditional media, like TV and print. But China is different: Traditional media other than TV are almost nonexistent for a very large proportion of the population, and digital users represent a new media population. This year, growth in average time spent per day with digital will be 6.8%, compared with 3.0% for all media.
The amount of daily time consumers in China spend with digital media has grown rapidly over the past four years, rising from just 1 hour, 47 minutes in 2011 to an estimated 3 hours, 5 minutes this year, and now accounts for 50.4% of total time spent with media each day. This compares with respective shares of 46.7% and 48.6% in the US and UK.
“On the surface, media consumption in China is much lower than that of most of the developed markets,” said Haixia Wang, vice president of forecasting at eMarketer. “However, this is largely due to much lower penetration rates of print, radio and even digital media in rural areas and among older populations. What’s unusual about digital media growth in China is that instead of shifting away from traditional media, digital is the second medium that a lot of consumers are exposed to after TV. And they are consuming a lot through digital and mobile channels. Smartphone users in China spend a larger share of daily media time on their smartphones than users in the US, UK and Canada, the three other markets where eMarketer estimates time spent with media.”
Continued smartphone and tablet adoption has boosted time spent with activities across mobile devices, with average daily time rising to over 2 hours this year, or 32.9% of the total, eMarketer estimates. Within the mobile category, smartphones continue to grab the largest share of time spent. As a proportion of adults’ total daily media time in 2015, smartphones will account for 20.3%, or 1 hour, 15 minutes.
Due to high TV user penetration in China—94.8% of the adult population—consumers still spend considerably more time with TV than with any other single medium, and in 2015, they’ll be in front their televisions for an average of 2 hours, 40 minutes per day, eMarketer estimates. That’s down from 2014, but by a mere minute.
It’s important to note that, for marketers, “time spent with media” is at best an incomplete measurement. From a marketer’s perspective, a user who spends 1 hour reading and writing email on a mobile device has little in common with one who watches television for the same amount of time.
In addition, eMarketer’s “time spent” estimates reflect blurring lines of media consumption. As in other markets, consumers in China are accessing traditional content on nontraditional channels—for example, television programming viewed on a tablet. In many instances, this may “count” as time spent on a digital device, but it reflects the fact that consumption of television content actually is rising thanks to a variety of nontraditional options that users have for watching TV and TV-like content.
eMarketer’s forecasts and estimates are based on an analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from research firms, government agencies, media firms and public companies, plus interviews with top executives at publishers, ad buyers and agencies. Data is weighted based on methodology and soundness. Each eMarketer forecast fits within the larger matrix of all its forecasts, with the same assumptions and general framework used to project figures in a wide variety of areas. Regular re-evaluation of available data means the forecasts reflect the latest business developments, technology trends and economic changes.
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